Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
The Iceland singer, songwriter and actress has made a stellar comeback this month. There was her first ever concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall (her first appearance in the UK since the release of last year’s album Vulnicura), not to mention her cutting-edge exhibition at Somerset House, Björk Digital, an electronic, immersive virtual experience of the album. What makes her such an interesting and powerful personal brand?
Above all, Björk is a pioneer, one who is not afraid to take risks with her creativity.
An ambitious and inventive artist, Björk seeks to consistently stay one step ahead of the curve. Since her post-Sugarcubes solo career began in 1993, her innovative vocal and compositional style, artistic experimentation and avant-garde art direction have received continuous critical praise. There’s also the playful element of Björk’s challenging and creative outer branding. Love it or hate it, from the infamous swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards to her more recent concert dress resembling a psychedelic jellyfish at the Royal Albert Hall, there’s no doubt that Björk brings a magical, otherworldly presence to our mortal world…but in a very human, very authentic way.
Björk definitely keeps us on our toes; constantly challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression. And now, she has added yet another dimension to her power brand: Björk 2.0.
Her current virtual reality (VR) exhibition in Somerset House, Björk Digital, vividly immerses you in a virtual universe, through 360-degree VR videos, to accompany Vulnicura (an account of the demise of her long-term relationship), which has been regarded as her most raw and emotionally exposed album yet. At the preview for the exhibit, Björk appeared as a live avatar for a press conference, which was accomplished by live motion capture technology and was rendered in real time using a Unity 3D game engine. This truly is Björk, digital.
Vulnicura will soon have a pioneering accompaniment: a “take-home virtual-reality album experience”, taking us even deeper into the emotions of her music. Björk Digital has already visited Tokyo and Sydney and will travel to four other cities. New songs are to be added to each show until the VR album is finished. The one glitch in Björk’s trailblazing has been the fact that most people do not have access to the required technology, which was a key motivator in exhibiting the work in art spaces around the world. “We understood that we needed a home for all the video apps until people have those headsets at home,” she says. “So this exhibition is almost like bridge building while the technology is growing” she told The Guardian.
The technological metamorphosis of Björk’s brand has been a very natural one, especially given that the progression of her solo career has closely paralleled the rise of the modern digital age she has come to embrace in her art. In a recent interview, Björk describes her fascination with the interplay of technology and culture, explaining that the “new times give us new tools”… but how to use them is up to us. She asks, “Are we gonna be lazy or let them stimulate us to be expressive? Are we going to create or destroy? Doesn’t matter if it was fire, the knife, the gun, the atom bomb, tech, or whatever. These things don’t come with humanity or a soul. We have to put it there.”
And put it there she does.
Perhaps performance artist Marina Abramovic put it best: Björk is an artist who is “always on the edge of everything, but it’s not trendy because even when she is working with the latest technology, fashion, images or sounds, she is always offering her own, deeply personal world.”